At rare points in their seven-game point streak that spanned the last two weeks, the Flyers would have stretches where they'd just not be able to get a whole lot going. Even in the middle of wins -- of which there'd be plenty --there'd be brief stretches here and there where passes weren't connecting, the other team would win some puck battles and get some extended time in the zone, etc. Y'know, things you tend to not want to see from a hockey team.
Of course, those kinds of stretches happen to every team in just about every game, and they're easy to overlook if they're rare and your team is still scoring and winning games. That was the case for the Flyers the last couple weeks. It wasn't the case tonight, and as a result the Flyers will head to Tampa on Wednesday looking for a new points streak.
For the most part, this one looked like it was pulled right out of the team's October/early November struggles. Against a weak opponent coming off of a long roadtrip, the Flyers spent most of the first two periods chasing the puck around their own end, having trouble starting the breakout, looking sloppy on special teams, seeing just one too many breakdowns lead to goals against, and not having the offense to make up for it.
It's the kind of game you typically see at the end of a winning streak, where it makes you wonder how the hell they got that streak going. It sucks that it happened against a bad team, but when you underestimate pretty much any opponent in the NHL -- something the Flyers, embarrassingly, flat-out admitted to doing after the game -- you don't really leave yourself any margin for error. The Flyers exceeded their margin of error by a lot, and the result is what you saw for about 45 minutes of tonight's game. The last 15 minutes or so were good, but that's not going to win you many hockey games.
* Once the Flyers decided to wake the hell up in the third period and start putting pucks on net, Tim Thomas pulled out his best Tim-Thomas-in-May-2011 impression on the Flyers tonight, and it gave me terrible flashbacks to, well ... May 2011. The old man was on his game tonight.
* On the other end, Steve Mason gave up three goals for the first time since early November. He kept the Flyers in the game for about as long as he could -- particularly with some nice saves in the second period -- and certainly was not at all why they lost, but I'd say it was probably the most mortal he'd looked in a while (including on the game-sealing goal which apparently knocked the buckle off his mask). Hopefully he'll bounce back on Wednesday or Friday, whenever he gets his next start.
* The ice seemed real bad tonight in Florida. Just an observation.
* The power play was pretty unsuccessful up until Wayne Simmonds knocked a rebound home in the third, but even as such there were a few chances at 5-on-4 and 5-on-3 that the Flyers just couldn't put home. Claude Giroux mishandled a great pass near the net on one, Scott Hartnell couldn't get a shot at an open net on another ... it was frustrating.
* Despite those two aforementioned missed opportunities, I thought the Giroux line was the Flyers' best line tonight, particularly in the third period once they actually got their heads out of their butts and started playing hockey. Possession numbers backed that up, too. The Read-Couturier-Downie line that's received so much praise of late was decent, as both Read and Couturier picked up a couple of chances, but it also saw some shuffling as the game went on with Rinaldo taking Downie's spot. Here's hoping that's just temporary -- the last thing we need is for Craig Berube to respond to a loss with another trip to the line blender.
* After I made a point to mention earlier today how much better the fourth line had been playing lately, they ended up totally lost on the ice for Sean Bergenheim's wrap-around goal that opened up the scoring in the second. Sad.
The Flyers were going to lose eventually. You kinda wish it'd have been in a more inspiring effort or against a better team, but hey, they ain't all gonna be pretty. Or good, for that matter. On to the next one.
Questions to Answer:
- Matt Read has been hot lately and he usually seems to do well against Florida. Do he and his line have another strong game tonight? Read had a couple of decent chances. His line was alright, though not quite as outwardly impressive as it's been lately.
- Back on the road, is Craig Berube able to match lines as much as he usually does? Line matching didn't seem to be happening nearly as much. Maybe the Panthers, who have a bunch of OK forwards but only one or two really great ones, don't lend themselves to hard line matching as much as other teams the Flyers have recently played do. Who knows.
- Last time these two teams played, Tim Thomas let in two bad goals and then left with an injury. How do the Flyers do against him this time? Scoreboard kinda tells the story there, doesn't it? Didn't make him work much at all through the first two periods, but boy was he on fire in the final frame.
Comment of the Night:
Buhhh.. GUhhh.. GUUHHHHHHHHHH. PUCK Y U NO GO IN NET?!?
-- To's Ego, saying what we were all thinking several times.
Still in Florida for a couple days as they'll head to Vinny Lecavalier's old stomping grounds for a game against the Lightning on Wednesday. Let's do better then. Go Flyers.